Hamilton West Side is on the verge of another Ohio Little League 12-year-old baseball championship.
The locals nearly squandered a 5-1 lead and survived a frantic finish Thursday in the winners’ bracket final to hold off Canfield 5-4 at Ford Park’s Robert S. Hoag Field.
“We battled and pulled it out, but we’re still not happy,” Hamilton coach Ken Coomer said. “We still think we have a ways to go. We’re going to practice even harder and work on things that we need to work on.”
This Canfield team beat Hamilton twice last year in the 11-year-old state tournament, but West Side has dominated the 12s for years, winning 16 championships and nine of the last 11.
Hamilton will play for the title Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at Ford Park. Canfield and Dover will meet in the losers’ bracket final Friday at 10:30 a.m., with the winner advancing to Saturday.
As the only unbeaten team remaining in the double-elimination event, West Side would have to lose twice Saturday to be denied the championship.
“We’re in a familiar position,” said Canfield coach George Beck, who watched his squad come out of the losers’ bracket to win state crowns as 10s and 11s. “We’re not dead yet. We’ve still got a heartbeat. We’re going to go back and regroup tonight and come back tomorrow and play another good team.”
Hamilton’s Braedyn Moore paved the way to victory Thursday with an outstanding all-around performance. He’s expecting to see Canfield again.
“It was crazy,” Moore said. “Our coach told us to keep practicing. Canfield will be ready for us, we’ll be ready for them. We’ll come out with a better hitting game next game.”
GAME 1: Hamilton West Side 13, Maumee 4
Moore pitched 5.1 innings, struck out 10 and allowed just one hit (on his 89th and final delivery of the day), a long solo home run by A.J. Havrilla.
“Hung a curveball right in his wheel spot,” Moore said. “I didn’t care as long as I benefitted the team with what I did.”
That long ball made the score 5-2 in the bottom of the sixth, and Moore had to leave the mound because of pitch-count rules. Ben Slanker greeted reliever Davis Avery with another deep homer to close the gap to 5-3, and Jake Schneider lined out to Moore at shortstop for the second out.
Broc Lowry then singled, Connor Daggett singled and Jack Davis was hit by a pitch to load the bases. With Avery still on the mound, Jameson Beck slapped a grounder that was mishandled by West Side third baseman Ethan Mueller, and the ball ended up in short left field.
Lowry scored and Daggett rounded third, Moore grabbed the ball and threw home to start a rundown, and Daggett lost his footing and was eventually tagged out by first baseman Casey Parsons on a lengthy pickle play to end the game.
“I knew they were going to be aggressive being toward the bottom of their order,” Coomer said. “I saw the kid rounding hard and I saw the coach hold him up at the last minute, and that’s when he got in the pickle. I wasn’t 100 percent happy with the pickle. I think the kids got a little nervous in the pickle situation knowing that was the tying run, but I guess the bottom line was we got him out.”
George Beck praised Moore for hustling into the outfield to get the ball on the last play and for his mound performance.
“We were pretty down the entire game,” Beck said. “Their pitcher did a fantastic job keeping us off balance. Two runs in six innings against our team is a fantastic outing. You have to tip your hat to him. He was just better than us today.
“It was nice to get him out of the game, but we’re going to face pitchers like that. We’ve got to be disciplined at the plate, which I thought we lacked a little bit today, and it came back to hurt us.”
It was a rocky finish for Avery, but he managed to maintain his composure.
“I just took a deep breath,” Avery said. “I was a little nervous, but I was good.”
Moore had a pair of doubles, Lake Cundiff cracked a two-run homer and Parsons added a solo shot. Avery and Katelyn Polido both plated runs.
Canfield’s Connor Miller pitched one inning before leaving the contest with a shoulder injury. Slanker threw 4.2 innings from there, and Havrilla struck out the only batter he faced. The trio combined for 11 strikeouts.
“There’s no reason we should’ve struck out 11 times. Their pitchers were good, but not overpowering,” Coomer said. “It seemed like we were satisfied with the runs we had. We had that 3-0 lead for a while, and it was just like we went in cruise control. That’s unacceptable.”
West Side 201-011—5-8-2
WP — Braedyn Moore; LP — Connor Miller; HR — WS: Lake Cundiff, Casey Parsons; C: A.J. Havrilla, Ben Slanker